French publisher pulls books by writer accused of underage rape

3 min

Paris (AFP)

French publisher Gallimard said Tuesday that it was pulling books by a writer accused of raping children from shops.

France's most prestigious publishing house told AFP it was the first time in its 140-year history that it had taken such a radical step.

Award-winning essayist Gabriel Matzneff is under investigation in France after a leading French publisher wrote a book detailing how he seduced her when she was 14.

Gallimard said they were recalling all the journals the 83-year-old has written under their imprint since 1990.

The last, "The Lover at the Arsenal", came out just in November.

The dramatic move comes a day after the French culture minister stripped the writer of his special state pension.

The weekly magazine Le Point had also dropped the controversial author as a columnist.

Matzneff, who won the prestigious Renaudot prize in 2013, has never made any secret of his sexual preference for adolescent girls and boys.

In 1974 he published a notorious essay titled "Les Moins de Seize Ans" (The Under 16s) in which he was frank about his obsessional "taste" for underage partners.

He was even more explicit in his 1990 book, "Mes amours decomposes" (My Loves Deconstructed), which describes sexual relationships with teenagers aged between 14 and 16.

It is illegal in France for an adult to have sex with anyone under 15.

He told French television at the time that he preferred "to have people in my life who are not hardened and who are still kind.

"A very young girl is rather sweeter, even if she becomes very quickly hysterical and just as crazy as she will be when she is older," he added.

- 'Exceptional love' -

Despite raising eyebrows, Matzneff continued to publish and there was little controversy when he picked up the Renaudot prize six years ago.

The case has again shone a light on what many see as an overly permissive attitude towards sexual harassment and paedophilia in France.

The French film establishment has been rocked by rape accusations against directors Roman Polanski and Luc Besson, while star Adele Haenel said she was sexually harassed by the director of her first film when she was 12.

All three men deny the claims.

Police opened a formal investigation into Matzneff last week after publisher Vanessa Springora described her tortured relationship with the writer in a book titled "Consent".

In it she described how Matzneff, then in his fifties, would wait for her outside her school and then take her to his home for sex.

"At 14 you are not supposed to be picked up from school by a man of 50 and find yourself in his bed with his penis in your mouth (instead of a biscuit) at teatime," Springora wrote.

Matzneff denies any wrongdoing, insisting there was an "exceptional love" between him and Springora.

He claimed her book tried to portray him as "a pervert, a manipulator and a predator".

Gallimard said it felt impelled to act after Springora's book was published.

"The execeptional measure which we have taken is justified to make sure the suffering that Vanessa Springora recounts" in her book is heard, it added in a statement.